Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Why Use YouTube When You Can Use GodTube?

Well, because YouTube has all of the same crap that GodTube has, along with some videos that are actually good. Just by typing the word "creation" into the search function (I know, why would any sane person do that?) I found the following little "educational" piece by a cretinist named Charley.
The scariest thing about the video is that this Charley fellow says that he lectures high school kids. Those poor bastards. What did they ever do to deserve that?

Anywho, the video serves as reasonable evidence that, whatever religious leaders say, there are plenty of people out there believing this nonsense. So, because I'm twiddling my thumbs waiting for the free online publication of the latest anti-atheism book, I'm going to summarise his arguments below:

Charley has four problems with evolution. The best thing about them is that they are even more simplistic than the normal, more "sophisticated" cretinist arguments.

1. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics says that things don't get more complex so life can't have evolved.
If this was an episode of QI there'd be alarms going off very loudly right about now. This is about the least sophisticated cretinist argument, and any high-school level physics student can refute it. The claim is that the 2nd law states that life could not increase in complexity (a reduction of entropy) over time as entropy can only increase or stay the same.
The 2nd law of thermodynamics, ladies and gentlemen:

In an isolated system, a process can only occur if it increases the total entropy of the system.
Many have pointed this out before me, including Dave Gorman, but Charley's version is particularly fun because of the example he gives.
"A battery goes from charged to discharged. It does not recharge itself."
And quite right too. But let's say we connect the battery to a large external power source, say a fusion reactor for example. What happens then? Oh yeah, it recharges at the expense of the increasing entropy in the fusion reactor.
Now let's imagine for a second that the Earth has its own enormous fusion reactor, just hanging there in space and showering us with vast amounts of energy for free. What an unusual world that would be. Imagine looking up one morning and seeing a huge, fiery ball of energy just hanging there in the sky. There would surely be chaos! Panic in the streets! Headlines reading "Humanity Flees in Face of Fiery Hell-Sphere!"

2. There are gaps in the fossil record.
That's pretty much it. As with the other cretinists he requires that we are able to dig up a fossil of every single animal that ever lived on this planet. Only then would they stop harping on about the fact that there are no intermediate fossils between this and that already discovered intermediate fossil.

3. There is no known mechanism for Evolution to occur.
Oh yeah, he said it. Apparently DNA is just there for show. Also:
"Mutations are damaging the information not increasing it."
"Dogs do not change into cats, because the information for the cat is not in the dog."
Do I need to even say anything after these quotes? Except that much of the genome of dogs and cats is shared. Oh, and I was sure I read about single genes being able to activate the expression of features in animals that normally don't have those features...

4. The mounting evidence that the Earth is not four and a half billion years old.
He's right here. I think the current estimate is more like 4.54 billion. Although I can't help the niggling doubt that he wants to move the estimate in the other direction...

I know, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Really big fish in a really small barrel. I just couldn't resist. I'll try not to do the easy ones too much more. I'll probably fail though.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Cretinism Coming to the UK

Ken Ham, president of lucrative US Young Earth Cretinism propaganda machine Answers in Genesis, is coming to the UK on another speaking tour. It turns out he's been here before and I just didn't notice. It would be quite easy not to notice as they don't make much of a song and dance about these tours in the mainstream media.

For those people who may not have heard of Ken Ham, he is from Australia - a country that seems to produce more than its fair share of cretinists - and he used to be part of the Institute for Creation Research, the same organisation that gave us Duane The-Fossils-Still-Say-No! Gish. He is obviously a very "good" Christian and describes his wife as "very submissive" as though this is a good thing. Who the hell wants a submissive wife? Where's the fun in that? Unless of course you - and she - are into that sort of thing... Nudge nudge, wink wink, a nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat, say no more etc.

Answers in Genesis is, of course, the illustrious institution that brought lucky old Kentucky the $27-million Creation Museum: 60,000 square feet of animatronic dinosaurs making nice with humans with a medievally themed gift shop at the end. I can only assume the theme is intended to be a nostalgia trip for those cretinists who miss a good burning at the stake.

Obviously Ham's view are controversial, although not with actual scientists. That controversy ended a long time ago. The cretinists lost, they continue to lose and yet they refuse to admit it. No, Ham's views are, of course, controversial with the old earth cretinists who don't understand how he can ignore so much data about the age of the Earth, whilst they quietly sweep evidence for evolution under the nearest unfeasibly large rug.

So, Ken the cretinist is coming to Leicester on April the 3rd 2008, presumably to peddle the same old crap as usual about magic and how the entire edifice of science is deluded and wrong. I'd also like to note that there seems to be a cretinism conference in Wales from the 28th to the 30th of January 2008, although they seem to want £130 just for attending. This is a price I'm fairly sure I'm not willing to pay just for inevitably being thrown out at some point for setting off the brain scanner.

On a side note, I'm becoming increasingly aware that there might be more cretinists in the UK thn I had first hoped. They seem to pop up everywhere and I've even met a few, although they were in the University's christian union, an organisation I might feel the urge to blog about later on.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Cosmic Conflation: Evolution, Abiogenesis and the Big Bang

I have now now watched more creationist propaganda - and responses thereto - on the internet than is medically recommended. Doctors now recommend that you aren't exposed to more than 300 mC (milicretins) of creationism per day. Some even consider this level too high as experiments with monkeys have shown that an acute dosage of as little as 600 mC can be fatal to other monkeys in the vicinity. Breaks of at least 24 hours are recommended between repeated doses, although these can be reduced with sufficient exposure to the sceptical literature. Some recent studies even suggest a link between exposure to creationism and autism rates in the US, however they have yet to demonstrate a mechanism to explain their simplistic correlation equals causation arguments.

Anyway, pointlessly length introductions aside, todays story is about one of the most infuriating aspects of the creationism/ID crowd: The conflation of evolution, abiogenesis and the big bang into one big mega-theory against which they then argue. Oddly enough, it's quite easy to shoot down a theory that tries to account for both the early inflation of the Universe following the Big Bang and the development of the bacterial flagellar motor.
I will now attempt to summarise each of these three areas below, relying on little more than a physics degree, an inquiring mind, my undergraduate dissertation and some stuff that I read. If you'd like to try this at home, you can substitute some sticky-backed-plastic and a Styrofoam cup for the physics degree and any issue of New Scientist for the dissertation.
[Disclaimer A: The following huge sections of text can be avoided by anyone who knows this stuff already. Alternatively, those people can read it and point out my fundamental mistakes.]

The body of theories that make up evolutionary science is vast, varied and complex, somewhat like the phenomena it attempts do describe. However, the basic Darwinian model is relatively easy to explain and serves well enough as a demonstration.
[Disclaimer B: There really is a lot more to it than this. Science has had nearly 150 years to modify its theories since On the Origin of Species was published in 1859.]
  • Given infinite resources, populations of organisms tend grow exponentially
  • There are only finite resources on the planet
Under these circumstances, organisms have no choice but to compete for the limited resources available.
  • Organisms reproduce by duplicating their genes in future generations
  • Mutations can be introduced by errors in gene replication or by radiation
The combination of reproduction and mutation leads to variation. Even very infrequent mutations will lead to some degree of variation within a species. We can therefore say that:
  • There is competition amongst organisms for limited resources
  • Variation will occur in a population simply by mutation
Variation plus Competition equals Natural Selection.

Organisms with mutations that are detrimental to their survival are less likely to live long enough to reproduce, whilst those with beneficial mutations will be able to do so, and might even be able to do so more than their counterparts. Thus, beneficial genes will tend to be duplicated more than detrimental ones.

All you need now is time. This process does not need to proceed quickly. It is not in any great hurry. Life has had at least 3.4 billion years (3,400,000,000) in which to develop to its current state.

Importantly, evolutionary theory does not currently make any claims about the initial emergence of life. It only describes its subsequent development. The ultimate origin of life is known as:

Abiogenesis is literally the formation of life from non-life. Theories of this kind describe possible ways for simple common molecules - such as water, methane etc. - to develop into the more complex molecules required for life, and subsequently into life itself.

To begin with, there is no single accepted theory for abiogenesis. Since we have virtually no evidence about what chemical processes were going on in the distant past, we can only speculate as to how life might have started to live. However, we can make models and develop likely ways in which this could have occurred, and we can perform limited experiments in the lab. The problem is that we do know that life had a whole planet and a very very long time in which to develop. These parameters do not lend themselves to lab experiments.
What we do know:
  • Water was liquid on the surface of the earth around 4.4 billion years ago
  • Evidence for biological processes exists as far back as 3.4 billion years
  • Eukaryotes (the lineage from which we descend) existed up to 2.7 billion years ago
This rough estimation gives life a billion years in which to first develop. By anyone's estimation this is a really long time.

Creationists always claim that the chances of life occurring spontaneously are extremely remote. They arbitrarily set the probability at something like 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (that's 27 zeros) to one, so let's run with that as our base probability for the cosmic lottery shall we?
Let's assume that for the first step of abiogenesis to occur, we need a cubic metre of water and a year. This is probably overly generous. Given the the billion years and the 1.37 billion cubic kilometres of water that we have to play with, that means we get to buy 1,370,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 cosmic lottery tickets. Now, this doesn't prove anything but it does serve to illustrate the sheer quantity of time and resources involved. It also demonstrates that any trained monkey can make up stupid probabilities. (ook)

However, whilst probability doesn't stop abiogenesis form occurring in the first place it does make it very difficult to test experimentally. You could make a chamber in which to replicate the conditions of the early Earth and die before you saw anything like abiogenesis. So how do we test the many theories that exist to explain the emergence of life on Earth?

We may not need to. In order to crush the creationist arument, the theory only needs to be plausible enough. In fact, the current body of theory is certainly plausible enough that a little trimming with Ockham's Razor will be all that is required.

For those interested in a more robust test of the theories I think the answer lies in computer simulations. Computer modeling of the world around us is improving every year and computers themselves are getting more powerful every year. I don't think we're at that point yet, but it seems plausible that it will eventually be financially viable to run a simulation of the basic chemical processes involved and just keep tweaking the parameters a little until something exciting happens. We can then check those parameters against what we believe the early Earth was like. If we're really lucky, we might even get a prediction to test by going and looking at some really old rocks.
The formation of life, however, has fairly little do do with the formation of the Universe as explained by:

The Big Bang
I'm not going to go into this at length except to say that the Big Bang model says nothing about the formation of life on Earth. It's like comparing the Milky Way galaxy to a badger. Whilst one couldn't form without the existence of the other, they have very little to say to each other.

Proceeding from some basic assumptions, the Big Bang attempts to explain how the Universe has developed over its 13.7 billion year lifespan. It states that the Universe began as a singularity and that is has been expanding ever since. It describes the timeline over which quarks and gluons formed protons and neutrons, the emergence of electrons and how these various particles subsequently combined to form Hydrogen. The hydrogen collapses to form stars, which turn Hydrogen into heavier elements and then explode, scattering these elements across the Universe. From these building blocks new stars and planets can form.

So, what the Big Bang model can tell us is how the Universe progressed from being very dense and very hot, to being much more tenuous and cool. Within this framework, better understood theories like gravitation do the work of forming the stars and so on. The Big Bang model is just that: a model. A model well supported by observation, but relying more heavily on mathematics nonetheless. The proof or disproof of Big Bang theory bears no relevance to the theories of evolutionary science. If we suddenly discover tomorrow that the Big Bang model is all wrong, evolution will keep plodding along regardless and abiogenesis will still have had to happen for evolution to be there in the first place.

So that's basically it. Three different theories, proceeding from different sets of assumptions. However, the creationists will tend to call all of these evolution. You see, for them "evolution" just means "anything that disagrees with my assumption that god did it."
I do seem to have rambled on a lot and I'm sure many of you (say maybe three out of all four of you) already know all this stuff anyway. That's OK, I think I disclaimered it sufficiently in compliance with blog safety rules.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Ghost photography.
I'm not quite sure where i came across it, but the Daily Mail (purveyor of meaningless gibberish to the masses since 1896) has a short article on its website about a ghostly face appearing in somebody's photo. Surely this confirms, once and for all, that respectable journalism is not listed amongst the Mail's strengths. Surely they have fact-checking to make sure that there are, you know, facts in their articles? Well never fear, dear reader, for they have the answers!
The Ghost Research Society has been collecting so-called “hauntings” since 1977 and you can view hundreds of ghoulish photos on their website
I was impressed to see the words "so-called" in there. That at least suggests a bare minimum of scepticism. However, I was not pleased that I now found myself compelled to visit the website. It was almost as if psychic forces beyond my control compelled me to do it...

And suddenly I was searching ghost photography archives across the internet. I don't know how it happened your honour. All I do know is that there are too many people not sufficiently able to operate their cameras that they interpret any reflected, over-exposed or out-of-focus parts of their pictures as "ghostly". Such people often comment that they didn't notice anything odd while taking the photo but that once they got it developed or opened it on the computer they saw these anomalies. You know what? There was something odd happening while you took the photo. You gave your camera to a monkey! And if that wasn't the case, would you mind putting your brain back in when you "interpret" your images? Thank you so much.

Now, I believe that I am basically proficient with a camera. I can fiddle with the settings and I won't run away if you use words like ISO and aperture. If I point the camera thing (In my case a Nikon D50) at another thing and press the little button, and I remember to remove the little opaque circley thing form the front first, I tend to get an image that I would describe as "adequate." However, sometimes bits of the image are overexposed, or blurry, or perhaps the animal moved during the exposure. Maybe there's some flare from a particularly bright light, or maybe the photographer had a higher than normal blood alcohol level and the camera wasn't exactly on a firm footing. Whatever the anomaly is, I can usually guess what caused it in the final image.

These ghost hunter types, however, can't. The site linked to by the Daily Mail (I've reached my quota, if I say it again I have to hand my eternal soul to Satan and all his little wizards) is actually about the most sceptical one I've visited. Most of the rest are full of galleries of images taken by the terminally incredulous, or in some cases by people who were, presumably, undergoing a seizure of some kind at the time. The word ghost is applied willy-nilly (I have still to discover how exactly one performs an action in the style of willy-nilly) to all sorts of lens flares and shadows with all the credulous fervour of a Westboro Baptist watching an episode of Will and Grace.

[Which reminds me, somewhat parenthetically, of this post over on Pharyngula about Heath Ledger. Aaaargh!]

Thursday, 17 January 2008

You Can't Have Our Organs! Over Our Dead Bodies!

It seems that the government of this fine (translation: not as bad as a lot of other countries) country (the UK, in case I have any readers I haven't met) is considering a bill that could revolutionise the organ donation system. There's a thing about it here on good old Comment is Free.
To me, mandatory donation of healthy organs and tissue upon death makes a hell of a lot of sense, with the usual namby-pamby opt-out clause available for the religiously squeamish of course. What really surprised me (I'm more naive than I thought, it seems) was the vocal reaction of those shouting stupid things like: "it's another stealth tax!", "it's the nanny state gone mad!", "It's like 1984 all over again!"
Are these people fundamentally mental? Are they, in fact, several coco-pops short of turning the milk chocolaty? What precisely do they intend to be doing with their organs once they're gone? I summarise the beliefs and practices that might lead to such objections below:

1. I'm vaguely religious and uncomfortable about the whole thing.
A lot of people seem to be objecting on the grounds of some wishy-washy variant of Christianity or another. Their bodies are God's and don't belong to the state or somesuch garbage. The odd thing is, one of their central beliefs - dualism - would suggest that they need their bodies less than we godless heathens. You see, they believe in the soul (or they're supposed to at any rate) which is separate from the body, so no matter how much you mash and mangle the corpse, Mr. Soul (see, there's a little James Brown in everyone. He was a busy man) swishes his way off to heaven or hell unperturbed by gore and mayhem. So, surely they have a very good reason to donate their gooey bits to the cause? Especially the Catholics, who can surely get some time-off-purgatory-for-posthumous-good-behaviour out of it.

2. My religion specifically says you can't chop me up for some reason
Some religions have proscriptions about non-manglement of corpses post-mortem. Apparently the soul or the spirit can get confused if its earthly vessel is eviscerated before it's entered the right post-code into its heavenly sat-nav. So I guess this would mean those religions bar anyone from the afterlife if they are, say, eaten by a wild animal or severely mashed in an horrendous yet amusing farming mishap. If your god is going to bar you from eternal bliss just because you happened to get eaten by a tiger, surely he's not a very nice chap anyway? These people should reconsider their relationship with that part of their brains they call "god".

3. I'm coming back as a zombie so I need all my bits intact
I admit this one might be a rare point of view in these enlightened, post-pharaoh times but let's cover it anyway. You might be fully intending to rise from the dead and at that point, you assume, you're going to need all your various parts present and connected in roughly the right way. Or, if you happened to be 5,000 years old and Egyptian you might dread the disappointment of waking up and not being able to play the amusing canopic jar mystery hunt the organ game. However, let's focus on the real issue here. If you come back from the dead as a zombie, what are you going to do with a full set of kidneys? You're not going to be enjoying quite the active social life you did back when denial was just a river in Egypt anyway. Rotting flesh is a real turn off in modern social circles.

4. My partner or spouse is a necrophiliac and it'd be rude to disappoint him
(Clarification: I'm assuming most necrophiliacs are male as, not wanting to think about it too deeply, I don't see a woman getting quite the same level of gratification from a corpse. Although I'd be the first to admit that my knowledge of rigour-mortis is scant at best, so maybe there's something in it. Answers on a non-illustrated postcard.)
This is the most plausible of my reasons as it involves an actually alive person. See how far I had to stretch to find a reason that wasn't entirely mumbo-jumbo based? See where I had to go to come up with an even vaguely plausible argument? Those people who fall into category 4 can feel free to fill in the opt-out forms. They might want to invest in a very large refrigerator as well.

5. I read the Daily Mail
This is a sure sign that brain function has ceased entirely. The ambulance will arrive shortly to take your organs to the nearest hospital. Please be patient.

So, I think my point can be summarised thus:

Dead Things Don't Need Organs!

I think that sums it up. Why can't we all just get to the sensible conclusion that bodies are just dead things? We don't need them for anything and neither does God, Allah, Shiva, Thor, Xenu, Osiris, Zeus or any of the other made up godly types. Why not ease the pain of another human being after you've gone? Sure, you won't be around to bask in the warm fuzzy glow of having saved someone's life, but if you like you can have a little preemptive bask now on the basis that you may do one day. Go on, nobody will think the worse of you.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

No Intelligence Allowed (And it shows)

I've been wondering whether or not to do an entry about the "documentary" Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed for some time now. Mainly, I've been ignoring it as doing research into it would probably cause me irreversible neurological trauma - multiple rapid collisions between head and desk can do that to a brain. So, for those of you who do not wish to suffer such side-effects I shall once again brave the white-water rapids of abject stupidity, being careful to avoid the piranhas of downright lying and the deadly whirlpool of conspiracy theory.

The Trailer

The film isn't out until spring 2008, but there is a trailer that you can watch here. I would hope that most sane people will spot the tone of the trailer and run for the hills in fear of their sanities. Unfortunately, the film is being released in the US, home of creationism and at least a million (figure estimated from cursory observations) other kinds of nonsense. I present below some highlights from the trailer.

The movie opens with our "hero" standing in a lecture theatre - oddly labeled "Biology 101"; it doesn't strike me as normal for a university to devote a whole lecture room to one class a year but there you go - writing "I must not question Darwinism, I must not question Authority" many times on a large blackboard. This immediately struck me as odd, since the whole point of Intelligent Design is that you do not question the Authority (God).
Stein then goes on to assure us that he is qualified to talk about a complex scientific issue. Or at least he's not but he did write speeches for President Nixon (and do a lot of apologising on his behalf) and he hosted an award-winning game show as well as being alawyer and lecturing on social issues and human rights. Whether this qualifies him to debunk one of the best supported areas of modern science I shall leave up to you, dear reader, to decide.

He then briefly pontificates about the "big" questions before hitting us with his first logical fallacy. Apparently we have a choice: either there is purpose and meaning to life, or we got here by "pure dumb fate and chance." It's clear that the "purpose" referred to is going to turn out to be divine so he is presenting a simple false dichotomy, the fallacy of bifurcation. I also feel the need to leap to the defence of poor old fate again. He gets a bad rap, always being portrayed as dumb or completely random, and always being used to describe the non-random process of evolution by natural selection. What's so bad about chance? So we might not have ended here at all? All that makes us is lucky, not special. If anything, we should be more thankful that we got here by natural processes than if we were made by some capricious deity.

He goes on to describe evolutionists as thinking of humanity as nothing more than "mud animated by lightning." Once again I fail to see the bad here. Isn't being animated mud quite amazing? But no, he prefers his "divine spark" and further spiritual mumbo-jumbo.
He then steamrolls right on to fallacy number two, the argument from personal incredulity. Apparantly the fact that this "mud" learned how to grow, reproduce, swim, crawl and think is so hard to believe - with incredulity growing exponentially with every added biological mechanism you list - that it just can't have happened naturally.

But it's OK, he doesn't mind if some people believe in evolution because he likes freedom of speech. Also, I need to make sure and flag up the Nazi Germany reference here. Those crazy IDers always manage to get it in somewhere!

It is then that we are introduced to "mild mannered scientist" Richard Sternberg. I'm not sure that his manner, mild or otherwise, is relevant to the discussion but there you go. Basically, Sternberg was editor of the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington and allowed an article advocating Intelligent Design to be published. There was some controversy about his editorial methods (it was his last month as editor after resigning) and the publishers pulled the article on the basis that it didn't meet their scientific standards. But by then, Sternberg has ensured the the ID crowd won a major victory by being published in an actual, real-life science journal. After that there were some fairly inconsequential court disputes which basically came to nothing.

Stein suggests that Sternberg was editor of the journal "until" he published the article, which appears to be misleading as it suggests that he was fired because of his actions when he actually resigned. Apparently there was then a "massive campaign" to smear his reputation and destroy his career. Having looked around, all I see is the response you'd expect from the scientific community when someone publishes a clearly unscientific paper to further their own ends. If he hadn't been resigning anyway, they should definitely have sacked him. Freedom of speech is one thing, being employed to uphold editorial standards is another thing entirely.

It's OK though, because Stein can't find anything wrong with the article so it's obviously OK. Let me reiterate here that Stein has none of the credentials one would require of a journal editor or peer-reviewer in the sciences. I'm sure this fallacy has a name but I'm just going to call it the "I'm always right and I know everything anyway" fallacy.
Apparently there are signs of ID in nature, which is news to me and the rest of the scientific community. Also news to me is that DNA is a "digital code" (pictured as zeros and ones forming a double-helix). Ask your nearest biologist how many base-pairs there are in DNA and they should tell you that it's four. Now ask your nearest computer engineer how many states there are in a digital system (they'll say two).

It is at this point that Stein makes his first historical mistake. It seems that there would have been no problem publishing this paper in the time of Galileo (really? The same period where the church arrested him for questioning doctrine? How odd) or Einstein (only 50-odd years ago). Apparently we now live in the era of Darwin and in this period no such papers would be allowed. Darwin died in 1882. Einstein was born 1879. It seems to me that the era of Einstien comes after the alleged Darwinian era began. But then, religious people have always been good at creative history.

He then makes a plea on behalf of the "many" scientists who have lost their jobs or tenure or had their papers refused (papers can be refused for a lot of reasons) "all for questioning Darwin". I guess it won't matter to say that evolutionary biology has moved on a huge distance since Darwin, or that the number of such scientists is quite small, although overpublicised by the ID proponents.
He then paints a picture in which there is a global conspiracy to stifle the academic freedom of these scientists. This is odd, because scientists can get away with an awful lot, that's kind of the point. They have the freedom to say what they want. However, if they're interviewing for a job in a university biology department and they answer that the whole edifice of evolution is wrong and the reason is that the bible told them so, that department is quite right not to employ them. What the department wants is the best scientist, the most rigorous investigator, not someone who cries "no fair!" and hides behind unsubstantiated doctrine. They are free to be religious and believe any old nonsense they want, but if they run their research on the basis of that nonsense they are not a good investment.

Next it's on to the old idea that Darwinism is dangerous (cut to images of concentration camp ovens and so on) and a selection of clips of famous science types (Dawkins, Dennet and so forth) saying that ID is rubbish. And it is here that Stein commits his most grievous misrepresentation. He shows a clip of Richard Dawkins saying "as a scientist, I am pretty hostile to a rival doctrine..." The clip cuts away there so we never get to see him finish his sentence. Now I've seen the worst kinds of quote mining but this is brazen beyond belief! You can't cut a video clip mid-sentence and expect us to take it as it is!. Though I guess the creationists will lap it up.

Next it's time to compare Intelligent Design to the civil rights movement (gratuitous use of Martin Luther King here) by saying that we have freedom of speech everywhere else, why not in science? What? You can't maintain scientific standards if you allow anyone to publish anything. That's how it works! So what the ID people want is a science where we can say what we want and that magical fairies did it so long as we are free. I wonder how advanced our life saving medical technologies or our computers would be if we took that approach?

So, in conclusion, science is a huge conspiracy to defraud the public about the true divine origin of the universe and our very special fluffy little place in it, and ID is gawd's own troof about how we got where we are. All those complex theories and equations are just made up. Nobody understands them after all, apart from those evil scientists!
Or, alternatively the above paragraph is utter crap and Ben Stein is a credulous idiot, seduced by the usual dead-end arguments from the creationists. I shall allow you, dear reader, to decide for yourself.

[Apologies for the enormous rant, but I couldn't help myself. This kind of thing just angers me more than it really should.]

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Dear Lord, please stop those naughty choir boys from tempting me...

Well, it looks like I came to this - and to the new year it seems - rather late. I bet there were literally millions (plus or minus 6 orders of magnitude, probably minus) of people hanging on the fate of this plucky little blog (I'm not the plucky blogger, I'm the plucky blogger's son?). Or, as is more likely in fact, not.

Either way, I can always rely on one church or another to provide me with a laugh every now and then. And this time it's the Catholics. You'd think they'd need a license for all that dogma, but I digress. Apparently, they have a small problem with priests fiddling with the choir boys. I know, I know, it comes as a shock to you too dear reader, but strengthen your resolve and press on. Somehow we'll make it through these trying times.

So, here's the bottom line: (no pun intended, although people only say that when there is) The good old Catholic Church has found a new way of dealing with this perennial problem (I think that's in the thesaurus next to "institutionalised abuse" if you look carefully) and it involves that always-successful, never-fails, better-than-science, you-can't-prove-it-but-you-know-it's-there, the master of mediocrity, purveyor of promises that don't deliver, ladies and gentlemen please put your hands together for...


Apparently if a bunch of old men, some of whom allegedly (and some of whom actually) fondle young children for fun, gets down on its knees and prays to the Lawd Gawd Jeserhaus H. Christ, those of them that enjoy the fondling will stop doing it. But that's probablt not what they're being told to pray for is it? If I know anything about rich organisations made up of morally and actually corrupt (allegedly, just in case...) old people it's that they know how to bend the law to suit them. What they're actually praying for is probably for those despicable satan-sent little children to stop being so gosh-darn tempting. Perhaps even that new rules be enacted requiring young boys to cover themselves from head to toe in order to reduce temptation? Although they might not do that, and not because it'd be a bad idea, but only really because they'd look a bit like they were copying Islam. And nobody likes a copy-cat.

Call me cynical if you like, but I'd have thought actually trying to do something about the problem would be more effective. Rather than just getting down on your knees and praying to an imaginary misogynistic old bastard, why don't the actual misogynistic old bastards (allegedly) do something concrete about it?

Oh, and todays word of the day is Jeserhaus. I've decided that it's german (or perhaps some form of scandinavian) for a church, as in "hey Klaus, let's go to the jeserhaus and pray a little."